Separated Gumbo - Help Please!
I'm making gumbo for the third time and I started by making a very dark roux (chocolate color). Subsequently I added chicken stock (instead of water as the recipe suggested), but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. My gumbo looks terrible - it's all separated and the roux is like slimy ribbons, instead of a unicolor gumbo. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated! I've been cooking this for hours!
I'm so sorry about your breaking gumbo- let's see if we can figure out what went wrong. I have a suspicion, however. When you made your roux- did you taste it before moving on? If it's burnt, it won't behave properly as a thickener, and will do what you have observed. When you say "chocolate", is this milk chocolate? bittersweet?
The roux is the critical, and also cheapest part of the gumbo. I've pushed my roux to the edge, and sometimes it goes too far, and it has to be discarded. I always make the roux first, in a cast iron skillet, and cut the heat off at caramel- still stir and care for it, until I'm sure it's not still cooking. Toasty = good, burnt = bad. And 50 cents later, I'll start over if necessary.
I also add the roux TO my other ingredients- I'll make the roux and let it wait off heat in the cast iron. Then in a big cast iron pot, I'll saute my andouille, chicken, spices, okra.... then add stock, and then add the roux, slowly when the stew is hot. After that incorporates, add the seafood near the end.
In a nutshell, I think you burned your roux.
The darker the roux, the less thickening power it has. Sadly, you allowed your roux to become far too dark to work as a uniting force for your gumbo. It's lost in the liquid, unable to bind with it. It can't be brought back.
Unfortunately, once a roux gets that dark, it's often very bitter as well. I hope that you didn't spoil the taste of your gumbo.
Here's a great primer on roux from Louisiana chef John Folse that explains the various classic French, Creole, and Cajun versions of roux, the differences among them, and how they are used.
You can't push that color beyond a certain point. Only practice will allow you to know when to stop. And remember that if you are making roux in cast iron, you must stop BEFORE the color is what you want because it will continue to cook from the retained heat of the cast iron pan.
Good roux requires practice and patience.
Some people like the flavor of a very, very dark roux. There are some people who might consider it "burned" but this is subjective. As jokeii said, Poppy prefers her roux at the stage she calls "milk chocolate," and s/he agrees. I like mine a bit darker - "pecan shell."
You will find some dishes in Cajun Country made with very dark roux but they are used for flavor not for thickening. The darker the roux gets, the less it will bind liquids and thicken them.
If you like the dark flavor in your gumbo, use the roux PLUS okra. Or use some of the very dark roux plus some lighter roux - one for flavor, one to thicken.
Gumbo is an inexact science. Keep experimenting until you find the balance that YOU like.